Maya to Blender

Hey everyone, I’ve been using Maya for roughly 3 months or so, and I’ve been considering on going to blender. I’ve used blender before but my procrastination got the best of me.

But anyways, I’m mainly wanting to be a Animator, and right now i’m just learning the basic of animation. Would this approach of learning how to use Maya for animation and transiting to Blender be a wise decision?

Before anyone asks, “why not stick with Maya”, I’m generally against mainstream use. Plus, blender is free and i can use it for commercial use.

If you are not worried about getting a job as an animator in an established studio that makes use of maya, then Blender is probably the second best choice for someone starting out. That said, you really should know how to/perfect, animating in Maya as well. It will help you as an animator in my opinion, even if your current focus is Blender.

Do not worry too much about the exact tools to learn to animate characters in - the skills are completely transferable from one 3d app to the next (as long as a graph editor is available). The techniques are more important to focus on when you start out. Although Maya is one of the (the?) standard character animation tools in use right now, animators starting out at Pixar and Dreamworks have to learn their proprietary software (no Maya), for example.

So go ahead and use Blender to learn the craft, then when you feel comfortable start up Maya again and animate a scene in that. Great character animators generally do not have to know anything about lighting, texturing, modeling, rigging, and all that (though some knowledge would not go amiss :wink: - just become an accomplished character animator.

SaintHeaven is correct in stating you will have to learn Maya at some point for character animation if you plan to go and work for animation studios - though, honestly, that is not that high a hurdle, since you’ll be using the same limited toolset in both (or more) applications. It should take you a couple of days of animating to accustom yourself to a different tool.

When you start out I feel it is much more important to focus on the art of animation - get good references (like the obligatory "Animator’s Survivial Kit, the book, or even better: the video course) and spend some money on resources like Keith Lango’s Animation Clinic ( - you just missed the $29 Christmas deal, unfortunately - maybe if you contact him?)

Transferring from Maya to Blender myself, I found that maya completely outperforms blender when it comes to character animation. You get better frame rate in it, the animation tools are better in it.
The way it treats character sets, the powerful timeline, mid click dragging to keyframe the current pose of a character to anywhere in the timeline, the ability to set tangent weight types within the timeline, animation layers and many other things.
The ease of MEL scripting and all the existing tools that come with that.

But blender has a few very big basic design features that I wish maya had. They sound small, but when you repeatedly do these actions, every little speed up helps:

  • Not having to click and drag to rotate on an axis- reduces strain in the wrist. In blender you can just hit R to rotate or G to grab and move the mouse cursor. In maya you must always grab the manipulation handle and drag it while holding down the mouse button. Of course theres the channel box, but it’s not as visual as just grabbing the character’s controllers.
  • mid click orbiting in blender- Being able to orbit around a character with one hand makes it feel like less work to do so. In maya your left hand must always be on the ALT, CTRL or SHIFT keys in order to navigate.

I wish I had these features in maya. So far nobody has written a MEL script or a plugin. Maya is not flexible enough to let the user make it behave more like blender.

the rules of animation are universal and transferable

to ease your transfer, you could get those Blender animation/rigging specific tutorials;
DVD Animation Fundamentals
DVD training 8: Humane Rigging
DVD Blender Animation Toolkit

there is also this video available

Maya to Blender Workflows for Animators In-depth

It should be, a lot can be built on top of Maya or along side it, which is one of the major reasons its so popular in studios. There should and easily could be scripts and plugins for such actions, though its probably not as common due to middle mouse dragging via channel box, which you mention. I would argue its just as visual and capable, you can even select which parts you want to scale rotate and move in any combo, something that takes a lot more work to do in Blender.

I personally dont like using the grab/rotate approach in Blender. In Maya its far easier to just make use of the industry best snapping tools and use both the channel box and the widget for precise move and rotate adjustments. That said, I think Blender could compete pretty well with this if its snapping functionality and usability were more polished and the 3d cursor more streamlined into that process. Thats just me though.

Oh damn, thanks for the video.

you should subscribe to theory animation youtube channel :wink:

Autodesk recently added a few new handle buttons to the manipulation widget:

They allow for easy locking of two axis (xy plane handle):

Of course this was outright ripped off from MODO:

Perhaps blender can do with this little improvement :smiley:

To be fair, such widget controls existed in both 3ds max and in XSI, so I wouldnt consider it a rip off of modo, maybe how its presented but not how the widget works.

I agree though, this would be nice for Blender. Blender relies way too much on hotkeys and key combos to make this happen, which is fine for some but it shouldnt be the standard…especially for those new to blender. I would hope blender could have all the functionality of the hotkeys without the hotkeys (in addition to the hotkeys) which would pretty much make it a more accessible application to use. For example, working on a cintiq I would rather have far more control with just a pen and its middle and right click buttons than to have to put everything down and perform some hotkey combo then go back up to the screen again.

working on a cintiq I would rather have far more control with just a pen and its middle and right click buttons

Maybe this would be better attempted in a unified Cintiq Mode similar to the Maya and 3DS Max modes…

Since its not just cintiq related though, any tablet would have similar problems really. I think it would be better just to be able to use the application without relying on a ton of hotkeys in the same way maya doesnt need to rely on a ton of hotkeys for its normal workflow and interaction. Make strong use of pie menus, on screen controls with the widget, context sensitive menus tied to one or two buttons tops.

Pie menus are on the way though, so we might wait then

Very true, its been on the way for awhile though. It almost seems mythical at this point. Good things are coming though, thats for sure. I keep checking the pages to see there has been any updates or progress made in key UI areas as well as the change in keymaps. So far so good, very little info on the keymap changes though.

Psy-Fi was working on them

In Maya to restrict translation/rotation to a single plane press ctrl + the axis you want remove from your transformation. Dead easy and less manipulator clutter.